Annual Uehiro Lectures in Practical Ethics (online): Professor Michael Otsuka | 15:30 - 17:45 |Zoom Registration
Lecture 1: The case for a funded pension with a defined benefit (DB)
Abstract: I begin by drawing attention to the efficiencies in the pooling of longevity and investment risk that collective funded pension schemes provide over individual defined contribution (IDC) pension pots in guarding against your risk of living too long. I then turn to an analysis of those collective schemes that promise the following defined benefit (DB): an inflation-proof income in retirement until death, specified as a fraction of your salary earned during your career. I consider the concepts and principles within and beyond financial economics that underlie the valuation and funding of such a pension promise. I assess the merits of the 'actuarial approach' to funding an open, ongoing, enduring DB scheme at a low rate of contributions invested in 'return-seeking' equities and property. I also consider the merits of the contrasting 'financial economics approach', which calls for a higher rate of contributions set as the cost of bonds that 'match' the liabilities. I draw on the real-world case of the UK's multi-employer Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) to adjudicate between these approaches. The objectives of the Pensions Regulator, the significance of the Pension Protection Fund, and the decision of Trinity College Cambridge to withdraw from USS to protect itself against being the 'last man standing', all figure in the discussion.
Speaker: Professor Michael Otsuka is a Professor of Philosophy at the London School of Economics. He is the author of Libertarianism without Inequality (OUP 2003) plus a number of articles in journals such as Philosophy & Public Affairs and Ethics, mainly on topics in normative ethics and distributive justice. His current research interests encompass prioritarianism, egalitarianism, and the separateness of persons; collective goods and the benefits of cooperation; risk-pooling, pensions, and insurance; the fairness and value of risks and chances of benefits; property ownership and the nature of money; and left-libertarianism versus social democracy and socialism. The focus of his teaching is on philosophy and public policy as well as moral and political philosophy. He posts blogs on Medium on issues related to public policy -- mainly on pensions but also on health insurance, the measure of inflation, and the funding of higher education. For the impact of his pensions blogs, Otsuka was ranked #23 of 50, alongside Vice Chancellors, Ministers of State, and top civil servants, on the ‘UK Higher Education Power List’ 2018 of those who had the most influence on this higher education sector that year. According to the assessors: “Pension schemes are complex beasts, with a large number of nested assumptions. So it takes a skilled philosopher to unpick the logic and follow the trails of meaning to their inherent contradictions. In Michael, USS actuaries found a formidable opponent, and it is no exaggeration to say his blog posts changed the course of the dispute.”
Plato Reading Group | 14:00–16:00 | Online
This term, we continue reading the Theaetetus. At the start of the term, we were at 168c5; the specific section of the week is sent around by email in advance. Each session is led by a person appointed in the preceding session, preparing the translation of the agreed-upon section of the text especially diligently. The sessions consist in the presenter’s translation of the passage and discussion of whatever interesting or uncertain point that arises, whenever it arises. We use the Greek text (OCT) as the basis for our discussion, and everybody should have prepared the week’s section in advance. People who do not know Greek or are just starting to learn it are welcome to attend.
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